'Tom Brady Rule' Highlights Proposed Rule Changes

The NFL and its teams have proposed a dozen new rules—concerning overtime, instant replay, onside kicks, and double-pass plays—for the 2021 season. The potential new rules will be voted on at the owners' meetings in May. 

One of the most unusual new proposals is the "Tom Brady rule," which change the penalties for teams that complete two passes in one play. The Rams proposed this rule after Brady and the Buccaneers essentially got away with two completions on one snap against L.A. last season. See this story for a full explanation of how that happened and what the new rule would be. 

Other proposed rule changes include:

  • Assorted changes to onside kicks, or outright replacing onside kicks with a fourth-and-15 play to retain possession.
  • Eliminating overtime in preseason games.
  • Allowing running backs, linebackers, and defensive backs to wear numbers in the single digits.
  • Replacing the overtime coin flip with a spot-and-choose method of establishing field position and possession. 
  • Barring teams from interviewing coaching candidates until after the conference championship games.


30 comments, Last at 17 Apr 2021, 5:44am

1 These are all fine except…

These are all fine except for the "numbers in the single digits" one. What's the point? It's not like there's been a problem with teams not having enough numbers or anything.

3 I saw a brief comment on…

I saw a brief comment on this rule that said some teams have had problems with guys on the practice squad who share a number with someone on the active roster, and then when they get called up to active they don’t have a number available. But at the end of the day, why would anyone oppose this? Who cares if a linebacker or DB wears a single digit number? It doesn’t affect anything, so why not give them the option.

21 Yeah, that's a legitimate…

Yeah, that's a legitimate reason to make offensive linemen and offensive skill position players wear different numbers. Who's eligible and who isn't on any given play should be clear for defenses and especially for refs, who have a lot to keep track of without having to remember that #53, who was 10 yards downfield before the pass was thrown, is actually the third-string TE. But that's the only reason I can think of that numbers matter. 

So why not just say OL players must have numbers between 50 and 79, offensive skill players can't have those numbers, and those are the only rules on numbers?

14 Running out of numbers

Football is the only sport I can think of that has a running out of numbers problem.  College teams routinely double up because the rosters are so large.

Not sure if the Jim Otto 00 is still allowed, but it should be.

It is also my understanding that the Chicago Bears either will not or have been told not to retire any more numbers because the active inventory is getting thin.



19 Who cares if a linebacker or…

Who cares if a linebacker or DB wears a single digit number? It doesn’t affect anything

Are you sure? It could make it easier for QBs to tell defenders in coverage apart from receivers and pass rushers. 

2 I don't know what is unusual…

I don't know what is unusual about patching a rule that rarely happens.

I find the numbers thing more unusual. The last jersey numbers rule change I remember was allowing receivers to wear a 10's number.

Allowing DBs to wear a single digit number doesn't even sound that weird to me. Maybe add the 40s to linebackers. That looks more consistent (40s and 50s) than single digit numbers on linebackers.

Changing the toin coss to some field position game sounds also more unusual to me. Coaches are too stubborn and conservative to say anything else than '25'.

Why pre season games have overtime is beyond me, they should've ditched that on the day they started playing pre season games.



5 Confusing headline as there…

Confusing headline as there already is a Tom Brady rule because of Pollard's hit on him in 2008—no hitting QBs below the knees ever since the season after that.

7 I actually thought it could…

I actually thought it could also be in reference to the game where the Pats flummoxed the Ravens with that weird personnel mixup of who was eligible as a receiver. 

I also thought it could be deflate gate related(wasn't sure if any rule came out of that; ie now the balls must be inflated by some special NFL official).

6 The Brady Rule?

That type of play has happened before, so I don't understand why they're going to name it after Brady.

The "Tuck Rule" should have been called the "Brady Rule".

Jon Gruden's Raiders were never the same..

30 Vinny's play happened before…

Vinny's play happened before halftime and Vinny was not yet done tucking the ball when he got hit.  Brady's pump fake and tuck were complete by the time Woodson hit him.  Also, in the announcement, Walt Coleman said nothing of the tuck rule, he said Brady's arm was going forward; the NFL used the tuck rule to bail out an incompetent official.

10 Apparently no one remembers…

In reply to by DIVISION

Apparently no one remembers these things a couple of years later anyway. The horse collar tackle was called the Roy Williams rule (the year after he broke TO's leg). A RB grabbing the defenders facemask was called the Marion Barber rule (after a couple years of him wrecking defenders with his stiff arm). Blowing the play dead when helmet comes off was known as the Jason Witten rule (year after his famous Sunday (or Monday?) night game against Philly where he rumbles for several yards without a helmet). But no one has called these rules these things since like a couple of years after they were put in. See above comment about "the Brady rule"—that one actually had the most staying power as I recall, such that I'm surprised reporters would be actually calling this proposed new rule that and not, say, Brady Rule 2 or something. 

25 Yeah, but the Calvin Johnson…

Yeah, but the Calvin Johnson ruling is gone, thanks to Dez Bryant!

It's actually a little disturbing how many cases of either "team stretches rule, league doesn't like it and counters it" or "team gets screwed by current rule, league changes it" get associated with Cowboys players.

29 the Carson Palmer rule

Before Bernard Pollard blew out Brady's knee, there was the Carson Palmer rule that was supposed to protect a QB against low hits.  Somehow that rule was not  applied to the Pollard hit, the language was slightly changed, and suddenly there was a "Tom Brady rule" and the Carson Palmer rule disappeared down the memory hole.

15 Rules nicknames

I agree that the nickname given to the rule fades pretty quickly from the common vernacular.  I remember when the five-yard chuck rule (a really significant rule change) was introduced, it was referred to in the press as the "Dave Casper Rule" or the "Joe Rizzo Rule".  I haven't heard either term in a really long time, and even ardent fans under the age of forty are largely unaware of either player. Seems like it is only print writers who are attracted to these nicknames, and then get bored with them.

As I write this, the thought occurs:  maybe the NFL should embrace these nicknames.  The illegal contact call sounds clinical and uninteresting.  Replace it with "Joe Rizzo! Number 36.  Five yards, still second down".

16 Isn't that the Mel Blount…

In reply to by BroncosGuyAgain

Isn't that the Mel Blount rule? The Dave Casper rule was about advancing a fumble on fourth down, the fallout from the Holy Roller game.

24 There are certain rules whose name needs to stick.

Generally if it's a that's so clear it's wrong it shouldn't have to be a rule.

Like the SEC's Saban rule. Though shalt not sign a player kicked off another team for beating up women.

Art Briles, Urban Meyer. Durkin. All of them need to have rules permanantly connected to them.

Legitimate game play rules it doesn't matter. 

27 That’s because announcers are idiots

In a lot of ways the rule outgrows the original play that sparked it. The Bert Emanuel rule name lasted a long time. Same with Calvin. But many new announcers don’t appreciate the history of the game the way they did maybe 25 years ago, or it’s not the network’s directive to teach. 

17 Why is this illegal anyway? …

Why is this illegal anyway?  It feels like an artifact of a bygone era when it was illegal for the offense to double touch a pass.   Are we worried teams would scheme to throw downfield, then throw back to the backfield and throw again?   As long as it has to be behind the LOS I don't see the harm...

Of course I'm still bitter about the one good offensive play the Vikings had in that superbowl vs. the Steelers getting called back.

18 stupid question

Are the odds of making 4th and 15 historically similar to the odds of recovering an on-side kick?

22 Better question: what should…

In reply to by johonny

Better question: what should the odds be? The recovery odds on an on-side kick are much lower today than they were 20 years ago, mostly due to rule changes. To me, something in the 10-15% range feels right, but of course there's no objective answer.

Historically, 3rd-and-15 and 4th-and-15 plays convert at about a 16% clip. 4th-and-15 alone is around 22%. Seems a little high. 4th-and-20 might be better.

26 My biggest concern

My biggest concern with making this rule change is how tilted penalties are towards the offense, making refs loom large on every “on side” attempt. 

if the receiving team on a kickoff commits a holding or illegal contact penalty, they still get the ball, just backed up further, or, worst case, the kickoff is repeated from deeper. 

But if the “receiving”, I.e. defending team, on an “on side” 4th and 15 try commits one of those same penalties, or any other penalty that grants an automatic first, the “kicking team” gets a free possession.